Don't take it Personally!

You might be on the receiving end of the wrath of someone. Only you know what is in your heart, why you do the things you do, what your motivation might be. It’s easy to be in the wrong place at the wrong time and get caught up in the drama. It’s time now to learn to not take it personally.


I have been using this idea for many years. It was presented to me by a psychologist I was seeing to help with some work issues back around 2001.

Since then I have found many references to it. But I think the best description I have come across that is short and to the point is in the bestselling book “The Four Agreements” by don Miguel Ruiz

Don’t Take Anything Personally is agreement number 2 and in the book is explained as:
“Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.”


Rick Hanson, PhD is a neuropsychologist and author of some great books. I love his blog post about this topic and have included the link in todays info.

I love the way he suggests we learn to react completely differently and “Really enjoy taking things less personally!”

And here is his advice as to how to strengthen this in you!

  • Notice when you start to take something personally. Be mindful of what that feels like – and also what it feels like to relax the sense of being personally targeted.
  • Be careful about making assumptions about the intentions of others. Maybe they didn’t do it “on purpose.”
  • Reflect on some of the 10,000 causes upstream. Ask yourself: what else could be in play here? What’s going on inside the other person’s mind and life? What’s the bigger picture?
  • Beware getting caught up in your “case” about other people: the inner prosecutor that keeps pounding on all the ways they’re wrong, spoke badly, acted unfairly, picked on you, really really harmed you, made you suffer, etc. etc. It’s good to see others clearly, and there’s a place for moral judgment – but case-making is a kind of obsessing that makes you feel worse, plus more likely to over-react and create an even bigger problem.
  • Try to have compassion for the other people. They’re probably not all that happy, either. Your compassion for them will not weaken you or let them off the moral hook; actually, it will make you feel better.”

Could not have said it any better myself so why try to. This guy is a neuropsychologist and much more qualified in this area than I ever hope to be.

Here is a link that explains it even further if you want to dive deeper into this one.

“This ability to recognize that someone else has a different perspective is a little different from empathy. According to current research, the capacity to respond to another person's feelings develops very early. (2) Yet a young child does not always know how to sort out what is about or inside her and what is about or inside the other person. It takes much longer for us to be able to separate our own experience from someone else's; and sometimes, especially in moments of vulnerability, this distinction can get lost.

That's when we end up taking things personally, even though in reality they reflect something about the other person, not us.”


So now we know all about this, what are we going to do to introduce it into our lives?

Take some time and come up with a strategy that you will use to learn and practice “don’t take it personally”.

Think about the last time you should have used this advice? Would it have changed a situations outcome? Spend a few minutes writing about a situation and how this advice might have made a difference. Is there something at the moment that you need this exact advice for?

Now let’s take action. It takes 30 days to develop a new habit. So what are you going to do to make this thought become a habit. How are you going to remind yourself to enjoy taking things less personally?

It might be as simply as printing it out and putting it somewhere that constantly reminds you not to take things personally. It might just be a stick note attached to your computer. It might be an alarm on your phone that goes off at the same time every day to remind you.

Now I want to finish up with a little personal story. When I was first introduced to this concept it was due to a nasty situation that I was in at work. But the interesting thing is the advice I got was more useful to me at home. You see I had a 3yr old at the time that I felt like I was constantly battling with. And I realized that I was taking it personally. I started to look at it from a 3yr old perspective and realized it was not about me at all, that I was doing a great job and it was more about him. I felt picked on, like I could do nothing right, and he really made me suffer, but it wasn’t about me!! It was about what he was going through. And he wasn’t doing it on purpose to piss me off, it was just who he was at that time in his life! So I used compassion to turn my parenting style around and that small piece of advice was one of the most valuable parenting tools I had. I might add that it also did help with the work issue too but was much more valuable a tool to use with the relationships I had with my family.